Motive sought in California murder-suicide that left six dead

Single survivor remains in critical condition

By Terry Collins
Associated Press / March 31, 2009
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. - An apparent murder-suicide in an upscale neighborhood of Silicon Valley that left three children and three adults dead had police searching yesterday for a possible motive and sorting out the relationships between the suspected gunman and his victims.

A woman in her mid-30s managed to escape from the house where officers later found five bodies in a "very horrific" scene, police Captain Mike Sellers said. She was hospitalized in critical condition with multiple gunshot wounds, Sellers said.

Authorities said a neighbor called police around 8:30 p.m. Sunday after coming across the woman bleeding on a sidewalk in the Santa Clara community of Rivermark, about 7 miles northwest of San Jose, Lieutenant Phil Cooke said.

Officers discovered the bodies of a 10-year-old boy, a 4-year-old girl, a man in his 30s and a woman in her early 20s scattered inside the three-story town house - all of them shot dead, Sellers said.

The suspected gunman, a man in his 40s, was found on the top floor, dead from a self-inflicted wound, he said.

A toddler was still alive when paramedics arrived but died overnight at a hospital, Sellers said.

Investigators were working to confirm the identities of the victims, the relationship between them and a possible motive for the rampage. Cooke said two handguns were recovered at the scene.

"It looks like it was family on family, murder-suicide and that all the people were connected," Cooke said.

He said police were doing interviews to find out "how it all fits together and try to get some indication why this happened."

Complicating the task was that the family had moved into the neighborhood only recently. Jackie Severin, whose husband helped administer first aid to the injured woman, said the town house had been for rent and she did not know a family with children was living there.

Severin, who wasn't home Sunday night, said her husband, Sergei, did not hear any shots and only found out something was amiss when a neighbor came to the door and told him about the bleeding woman on the sidewalk. Her husband grabbed several sheets to cover her up and saw that the door of the town house was open but did not go inside, Severin said.

Residents described Rivermark, a seven-year-old planned community with a shopping center, playgrounds and a mix of town houses, condominiums and Spanish-style houses that go for $1 million, as relatively quiet.

"It's the sleepiest little area. Nothing ever happens here," said Jackie Stewart, who walked with her husband over to the crime scene.

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